Six Degrees of Separation returns with a roar to San Francisco

eting Paul in Six Degrees of Separation: (l to r, back) Kelly Reinhart, Kyle Goldman, Matt Weimer (standing), Rich Sargent, Kyle McReddie, Karl Schackne, Brian Levi, Carl Lucania (sitting L), Khary Moye (sitting R),Genevieve Perdue (standing R)

Meeting Paul in Six Degrees of Separation: (l to r, back) Kelly Reinhart, Kyle Goldman, Matt Weimer (standing), Rich Sargent, Kyle McReddie, Karl Schackne, Brian Levi, Carl Lucania (sitting L), Khary Moye (sitting R),Genevieve Perdue (standing R)

Six Degrees of Separation: Dark Comedy by John Guare. Directed by Stuart Bousel. Custom Made Theatre, 533 Sutter St. (at Powell) in San Francisco, CA. (415) 798-2682, or www.custommade.org. .   May 19-June 18, 2016

Six Degrees of Separation returns with a roar to San Francisco Rating: ★★★☆☆

It is almost 10 years since John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation graced the same stage now occupied by the Custom Made Theatre Group. SF Playhouse’s production was staged as an elegant tragicomedy with Robert Parsons, Susi Damilano and Daveed Diggs in the lead roles. The Custom Made version has mounted the play as a farcical comedy with Matt Weimer, Genevieve Perdue and Khary Moye in those same roles. This may be a reason Custom Made’s concept did not receive their usual standing ovation earning only appreciative applause from its loyal following.

Guare’s play is based on an actual incident and the title has entered into common usage although it stretches the imagination.  It suggests that in the right circumstances each individual is only six persons removed from any other person. The play is a commentary on the force(s) that drive people to gain fame, social standing, money and connection to others. If there is a protagonist it is a young black hustler named Paul who gained access to the homes of upper-class New Yorkers pretending to be the son of actor Sidney Poitier. However Guare gives the pivotal line of the play to another character in a monolog near the end of the play.

Guare’s most famous play House of Blue Leaves (1970-71) won the Award for Best American Play and was awarded two Tony Awards for the 1986 revival. Six Degrees of Separation has received similar Awards including being a finalist for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and winning the Olivier Award in 1993. Its construction matches that of Blue Leaves and allows a great deal of latitude for any director considering there are 13 cast members playing 17 roles.

It all begins with private art dealers Flan (Matt Weiner) and Ouisa (Genevieve Perdue) Kittredge addressing the audience setting the stage for the first scene where they are entertaining a rich South African to convince him to add two million dollars into a consortium bidding on a Cezanne painting. The entire cast is sitting on stage rear making quick entrances and exits as needed allowing the action to flow during the play’s taut, often hilarious, 90 minutes.

Then Paul (Khary Moye) dramatically enters with a minor stab wound stating he was mugged in Central Park and saying he is a friend of their children in Harvard. We learn later that Paul obtained the information from a male sex partner who also attends Harvard. Paul claims he is meeting his father Poitier who is directing a film version of the musical Cats. He charms all and is allowed to stay in the apartment but when he is caught in the nude with a male hustler the police are called and Paul escapes.

There are some clever twists when other affluent and vain friends who have been duped by Paul are introduced and Guare explores the alienation between parents and children before he turns to more serious tenure. Whereas there has been no real damage, except to egos, to those whom have been bamboozled due to their own vanities, there is sharp shift in tenure. Paul gains the trust of non-affluent young couple that leads to a drastic ending making Paul a wanted criminal.

Even though there is an indication that Paul’s end has been drastic, Guare has elected to bookend the play with a final scene at the Kittredge apartment discussing the merits of a double sided Kandinsky painting.

CAST: Sam Bertken, Rick; Alisha Ehrlich, Elizabeth; Kyle Goldman,Woody/Hustler; Brian Levi, Larkin; Carl Lucania, Geoffrey/Policeman;  Kathleen McHatton, Tess; Kyle McReddie,Ben/Detective;  Khary Moye, Paul; Genevieve Perdue, Ouisa; Kelly Rinehart, Kitty; Richard Sargent, Doug/Trent; Karl Schackne, Dr. Fine; and Matt Weimer, Flan.

CREATIVE TEAM: Stuart Bousel, Director; Brooke Jennings, Costumes; William Campbell, Lighting; Neil Higgins, Assistant Director; Ryan Lee Short, Sound; Ryan Martin, Scenic Design; Grisel Torres, Props; Kitty Torres, Assistant Costumer.

Kedar A. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

Meeting Paul: (l to r, back) Kelly Reinhart, Kyle Goldman, Matt Weimer (standing), Rich Sargent, Kyle McReddie, Karl Schackne, Brian Levi, Carl Lucania (sitting L), Khary Moye (sitting R),Genevieve Perdue (standing R)